Geneva, 13 Dec (Kanaga Raja) -- In line with the proposed intensification of work on all fronts of the Doha Round of trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) from the beginning of next year, the WTO Negotiating Group on Rules is now set to accelerate its own work on the issues of anti-dumping and fisheries subsidies.

This emerged during informal meetings of the Rules Group last week.

The Rules Group held an open-ended informal meeting on fisheries subsidies on Friday (10 December), at which the Chair, Ambassador Dennis Francis of Trinidad and Tobago, reported on the plurilateral consultations that he had held over the past several days.

According to trade officials, the Chair said that these consultations focussed on three fisheries subsidies proposals: from Korea (TN/RL/GEN/168), which has placed emphasis on the use of fisheries management systems to control overfishing; from Brazil, India, China and Mexico (TN/RL/GEN/163) on special and differential treatment for developing countries; and from Australia (TN/RL/GEN/167), which proposes a new category of prohibited subsides to deal with destructive fishing practices.

According to the proposal tabled by Brazil, India, China and Mexico, which contains draft legal text, the main objective is to make real the Hong Kong mandate (2005) in that "appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least-developed Members should be an integral part of the fisheries subsidies negotiations, taking into account the importance of this sector to development priorities, poverty reduction, and livelihood and food security concerns".

According to the four proponents, the assumption here is that the prohibition of subsidies causing excessive fishing effort and negatively impacting fisheries resources can and shall be reconciled with the important role of fisheries subsidies in the economic development of developing countries. The applicable controls should allow developing countries to achieve development priorities, poverty reduction, and address their livelihood and food security concerns.

In its communication, Australia proposes the addition of a new category of subsidy which it said should be prohibited. It considers that there are a number of current fishing practices which have a serious adverse impact on high seas fisheries and habitats.

In particular, Australia said that it has concerns over the impacts of fishing practices, including bottom trawling and large-scale drift-nets, including on the high seas, which have destructive impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems. "Permitting the continued subsidization of these practices in our view would not be consistent with our mandate," it said.

The Australian proposal however noted that certain types of fisheries subsidies may be beneficial to fish stocks and therefore should be included in the General Exceptions of the current draft text. These subsidies include income support for fish-workers to exit the industry or subsidies for vessel decommissioning and capacity reduction (which may be required, for example, to create marine protected areas).

According to trade officials, the Rules Chair reported in detail the various views of delegations concerning these proposals.

Ambassador Francis also noted the calls for an intensification of the work in the Doha Round, and for convergence texts to be tabled by end of March next year.

The Chair said that he will be meeting with a group of ambassadors (accompanied by their fisheries officials) on Saturday (11 December) concerning the negotiations in this area.

He also informed the membership that he was moving forward the fisheries subsidies meeting from mid-February to 2-4 February 2011, and that he is considering a variety of options to accelerate the work.

According to trade officials, China pointed out that 2 February would be the Chinese New Year, and thus a number of Asian delegations would not be able to send their senior officials to Geneva.

The Chair replied that he would try to accommodate this point.

In concluding, the Chair said that success is not beyond the participants, and that the goals are doable. He encouraged delegations to address each other's sensitivities in their bilateral meetings.

Earlier in the week, on Wednesday (8 December), the Group held an open-ended informal meeting that focussed on the issue of anti-dumping.

According to trade officials, the Rules Chair provided a detailed report to the membership on the informal plurilateral meetings that were held over the past few days on the issue of anti-dumping.

The Chair said that the issues that were discussed, based on the previous Chair's texts, included the bracketed issues of "material retardation" (regarding a domestic industry being established in the context of Article 3 of the Anti-Dumping Agreement on "Determination of injury"); and "exclusion of producers who are related to exporters or importers or who are themselves importers" (Article 4 of the Anti-Dumping Agreement on "Definition of domestic industry").

Issues related to the un-bracketed texts in the Chair's texts were also discussed, said trade officials, including those related to exclusion of producers, fragmented industry, identification of domestic producers, back-to-back anti-dumping investigations, and active identification of exporters and foreign producers by the anti-dumping authorities.

Noting the calls for an intensification of the work in the Doha Round, Ambassador Francis pointed out that the Rules Group has already scheduled a meeting on anti-dumping at the end of January 2011.

He said that he would be meeting with an informal group of ambassadors on 14 January 2011.

According to trade officials, from his discussions with various delegations on how to accelerate further the work of the Group, the Chair said that he was now thinking about appointing facilitators, who will act in a personal capacity to help develop working papers with delegations on special issues.

Another informal meeting of the Rules Group is scheduled to take place on Monday (13 December), this time focussing on regional trade agreements. +

14 December 2010